I survived a PIP at work after getting diagnosed with ADHD and taking medication

I survived a PIP at work after getting diagnosed with ADHD and taking medication
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A woman was put on a performance-improvement plan. Then, an ADHD diagnosis and treatment helped her improve in her job.

  • A woman who works in digital marketing was put on a performance-improvement plan in a new job.
  • As a result of an ADHD diagnosis and treatment, she was able to improve her performance, she said.
  • She survived her PIP and has tried to help new hires so they don’t feel as isolated as she did.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with a woman based in the US who works in digital marketing. She was put on a performance-improvement plan several months into a new job. She’d been fired from a prior role and didn’t expect to survive the PIP. However, diagnosis and treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder helped improve her focus. She asked that Business Insider withhold her identity because she didn’t want her story to reflect poorly on her employer’s training process. The following has been edited for brevity and clarity.

I work in digital marketing. When I was placed on a PIP, I had a lot of people tell me to start looking for another job. Some said not to even fight the PIP because my bosses already had it in their minds to fire me. Even recruiters and my friends who work in HR said that.

But my circumstances were a little different. Most of the bosses are pretty young. They’re my age — early 30s — and I think they really did have the intention of sharpening me up a bit. They did exactly what the performance improvement plan is supposed to be for, which is to get team members up to the standards they expect.

The problem I had was that my boss hired me and then went on maternity leave. Once I started, there was a period of several months when she was gone, and I felt like I was just left out in the woods. I was relying on my teammates to train me — people who didn’t have experience doing that. When my boss got back, she seemed frustrated that the two new hires — myself and someone else — weren’t up to par.

I did feel it was unfair to be placed on a PIP because of that, but I’d had a history of losing jobs. I had always had a lot of focus issues. However, during the PIP, I was diagnosed with ADHD, which I think explains why I sometimes struggled at work.

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I survived my PIP, but a coworker didn’t

Two of us were placed on a PIP at the same time — the two new people. Everyone else on the team had been there for four or five years. They ended up firing the other new team member. When they fired him, I thought I was also on the chopping block, though eventually, my coworkers told me he just wasn’t meeting the expectations of the PIP.

The PIP meeting was the first time my employer formally stated expectations and standards. How can you meet expectations if you don’t know what they are? I heard things like, “You need to reply to clients within 24 hours. Send meeting notes 30 minutes prior to a call.” No one had ever said any of that.

I’ve heard that the more realistic the objectives, the more you can pass a PIP. Ours are pretty well-defined and pretty realistic. It was things like being online by 8 a.m. and having your camera on for meetings. These things hadn’t been stated but were easy to achieve.

A lot of my job is meeting with clients. When my boss returned from maternity leave, she was on all of my calls supervising. Afterward, she would send me notes with, “Here’s what I would have said.” That was the first time that I ever had any real feedback. Before she came back, my other workers were supervising. Everyone would just say, “Oh, good job on the call.”

Both my managers are very busy. Before my PIP, I felt like I had to ask my coworkers questions on calls. I didn’t want to send a message through Teams because I didn’t want any trace of it. I didn’t want it to seem like I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know what they expected me to know.

After my PIP, we eventually got two new hires. I told my boss, “Here’s what went wrong. Here’s what the new hires need to know so they are not placed on a PIP.” There was a lot of company knowledge that I didn’t glean when she was gone. I felt like I didn’t have anyone to turn to because I didn’t want to keep bugging my coworkers. We work remotely, and I think that in an office setting, I would have had more opportunities to ask questions. I feel like I was thrown to the wolves in some regard.

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I just made sure the new hires knew that they could ask me anything at any time. I felt very alone during my PIP, and I don’t want others to experience that feeling. I am a first-generation college graduate. I was the first generation to work in a corporate role. So I have nobody to go to when something like this happens.

ADHD medication is helping me focus

The ADHD medication is helping a lot. It’s helping with my focus. Once I was diagnosed and started learning more about ADHD, I felt like I understood my whole life. I remember being a teenager, and I was a straight-A student. I had wanted to be a doctor, but I told myself, “I can’t handle that.” I didn’t know that I had this attention-deficit disorder. The diagnosis and medication have really changed the game for me.

When I was put on the PIP, I was in crisis mode. I was considering switching to a different career. I was thinking of becoming an EMT. Random stuff. But I thought, let me knuckle down in this job first and give it 110%. At the time, I didn’t have an ADHD diagnosis.

I never felt confident during the PIP that I was going to survive it. I would get messages from my bosses like, “Good work. You’re coming up to speed on things.” Everything that they said during it was positive, but because of what I’d heard about PIPs, I expected to get fired.

Then, after my diagnosis, I was taking my medication every day and working around the clock. I was very vocal and transparent with both of my bosses about what I was doing because we had weekly check-ins for the PIP.

But it was hard to know what to disclose. On one call, I was very hesitant to mention it, but I said, “I was recently diagnosed with ADHD, and I know that it’s affecting my performance. I apologize if there were any gaps.” I told them I was on medication that’s really helping. They said, “Thank you so much for telling us. We’re really glad that you opened up to us about that. We wish you would have said something sooner because we could make accommodations.” It ended up being a positive for me to say that, but I was taking a gamble because it can also be used against you.

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It’s not the warmest office. It’s not the most transparent management. I didn’t feel like I had a rapport with one of my bosses until I met her in person. Then she ended up apologizing for the PIP and saying that after she had her baby, she had postpartum depression and was kind of going through a lot and needed the team to be at 100% because it would help her out, too.

I didn’t have the final PIP meeting. They just sent an email saying that I passed and that we wouldn’t have the check-ins and everything was fine. And they copied HR. I felt very relieved. But I still felt weary and like I needed to tread lightly. You still have to continue the standard that they set.

The PIP process, on the whole, was positive — having so much transparency for the first time. Now I know I can go to my bosses and say, “Hey, I’m not able to get a refill of my medication because of a shortage. I’m sorry if you need to remind me about anything. Just feel free to be harder on me during this.”

Overall, I feel more job security now. They’re even putting me on new accounts.

Do you have something to share about a PIP or what you’re seeing in your workplace? Business Insider would like to hear from you. Email our workplace team from a nonwork device at [email protected] with your story or to ask for one of our reporter’s Signal numbers. Or check out Business Insider’s source guide for tips on sharing information securely.

Read the original article on Business Insider


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